Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 4: Twitter” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 4

 

 

This week, we’re once again looking at major advertising channels I’ve used in promotion of my webserial “From Winter’s Ashes“, and analyzing them one by one for the ROI and needs of an author and publisher. Today’s focus is one of a kind, with 316 million active users, Twitter!
 

The first thing out of the gate that I REALLY liked about advertising with Twitter was the very comprehensible targeting. Of course you had your usual demographics analysis, but there was some spectacular other options, like: “Advertise to your followers” and “Advertise to the followers of the people you list here”, the latter option was FANTASTIC for targeting. If you know the twitter handles of, say, five or ten authors who write things like you do, targeting their followers means that you’re probably planting on fertile ground.

The next thing that I liked was that Twitter encouraged you to have more than one tweet as an advertisement. If you want a great experiment in honing your pitches to 140 characters and below, this is a fantastic exercise. I created four tweets that advertised the story, and saw some very different response rates from each of them, which I’ll detail further down this article.

 
We’ll begin this week with the raw statistics, this time provided in a big beautiful infographic here: http://i.imgur.com/0W9Abfz.png
 
Budget: $35.00
 
Days: 7 ($5.00/day)
 
Impressions: 43,800
 
Clicks: 27 / 92* –> 27 clicks directly through to site. Retweets, favorites, or clicking on the “WebCard” of From Winter’s Ashes resulted in upping that total to 92 interactions.
 
CTR: 0.06% / Engagement Rate: 0.22%
 
CPC: $1.30
 


Analysis:
 
 

Overall, $35.00 bought me 43.8k impressions, with (27/92)* clicks. Why the asterisk? 27 of those clicks were directly to the site, while the total of 92 included people who went to my Twitter, clicked on the website card, favorited, or retweeted. Twitter does some pretty good granularity that way, but they don’t always explain it well.

Overall click-through rate: 0.06%. Devastatingly low. This is one-fifth the rate that Reddit offered me. On the upside, I served a lot of impressions, but overall it’s clear that on Twitter, people generally don’t want to click ads, even less so than they want to on other sites.

Engagement rate: 0.22%. Not terrible, here, when we factor in people engaging with the tweet or otherwise interacting with it. As we’ve covered in prior entries, 0.2-0.4% is the average you’ll find most non-targeted advertisement fall into. The fact though that this was targeted advertisement, is another black mark on Twitter for adverts.

And finally, our almighty Cost-per-click: $1.30. Pricey. I’m paying Facebook cost-per-clicks for a response rate that’s considerably lower. The impression rate is pretty awesome, which is nice for building brand awareness, but overall if people aren’t clicking, they aren’t buying.

I wouldn’t use Twitter again unless my goal was new brand establishment, or to bring in a wave of new eyes and awareness on a story product.

 



By the tweet:

So this was a part of Twitter advertising that was really, really valuable for me. Finding out which tweet I wrote had the most engagement, and drew the most interested eyes to the story.

My top performer, at 0.25% engagement rate: “Does the necromancer who butchered her husband and son deserve a Detective’s justice, or a mother’s revenge?”

In retrospect, it’s an obvious choice. It’s powerful, engaging, leaves the reader with a compelling question, and people clicked through a little more there than any other one. As a result, I’ve included the line in other marketing and synopsis of the story since.

Tied for 2nd place, at 0.22%:

“Heather Blackthorne once hunted down necromancers, until one hunted down her family. Now he’s come hunting for far more.”
“From Winter’s Ashes – A Detective with nothing left to lose, against a Necromancer with the world to gain.”

And my last-place finisher, in 4th, at 0.19%:

“In a world where everyone possesses magic, a Detective seeks justice on the Necromancer that butchered her family.”

 


 

In conclusion:

Twitter, at this expense level per engagement, is probably prohibitively expensive for a webserial’s conversion rates. The ability to finely target other authors followers is very nice, but is countered by the fact that Twitter users are particularly ill-inclined to engage with advertisement there.

The only uses Twitter will have for a webserial’s and publishers economics may be starting up a new brand/story, getting people interested in a new book or e-book release, and generally getting your brand name out there. If so, I would recommend including your name in the tweet, so that even if the title doesn’t stick, your name hopefully does.

I won’t use Twitter again for From Winter’s Ashes, I think, but if nothing else, the $35.00 spent was valuable to see, in stark statistical payout, what one-line summaries of the story were more effective at hooking people.

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Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 3: Facebook” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 3

 


For the next few parts, we’re going to look at major advertising channels I’ve used for my webserial “From Winter’s Ashes” and analyze them one by one for the ROI and needs of an author and publisher. Today’s focus is one of the busiest sites in the world, Facebook!
 
Facebook advertising is extremely cagey about presenting its stats in a standard advertising way, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in me. However, the response results weren’t terrible:
 
My response rate was 32 interactions out of 1055 impressions, which translates into 3% CTR. Compared to Reddit and Google, there’s definitely a LOT more engagement per impression. 
 
Almost 90% of those engagements came from Mobile users, which means that if you’re going to use Facebook for a webserial or author’s, make *absolutely* sure that your site works well on mobile devices. Mobile devices are taking the internet by storm, make absolutely sure your website is presentable to them in mobile format.
 
User demographics were particularly revealing:
 
18–24
5 Likes
261 Impressions
$1.19 Cost per Like
$5.95 Total Spent
 
25–34
3 Likes
242 Impressions
$2.18 Cost per Like
$6.55 Total Spent
 
35–44
7 Likes
263 Impressions
$1.04 Cost per Like
$7.26 Total Spent
 
45–54
9 Likes
168 Impressions
$0.93 Cost per Like
$8.34 Total Spent
 
55–64
8 Likes
121 Impressions
$0.86 Cost per Like
$6.86 Total Spent
 
 
Gender Breakdown:
 
Female: 
22 Likes 
709 Impressions 
Cost per page like: $1.09 
Engagement 3.1%
 
Male: 
10 Likes 
336 Impressions 
Cost per page like: $1.08 
Engagement 2.9%
 
 
Country Breakdown:
 
Canada: 1 Like, 134 Impressions
United Kingdom: 3 Likes, 257 Impressions
United States: 28 Likes, 665 Impressions
 
 
Device Breakdown:
 
All 32 engagements were on mobile devices. No Likes at all occurred on PCs. 
 
25 of the 32 likes came from Android smartphones.
 

Analysis:

The numbers provided are of a limited and low-confidence sample base. As such, some interesting artifacts of data are easy to dismiss as error bars, while other insights provide reliable feedback on the performance of Facebook ads.

The biggest surprise to me was the gender disparity in engagement on Facebook. More than twice as many women as men are clicking on From Winter’s Ashes, despite the advertisement being deliberately as gender-neutral as possible. Facebook simply engages women much more than men.

Age of engagement wasn’t as surprising: Facebook appeals to an older demographic, and that shows. While they’re more likely to have disposable income, they are less likely to engage in modern payment methods, such as PayPal and Patreon. Of the 32 Likes, only two resulted in conversions to Patreon clicks. None of them became Patrons.

Of greater value in this advertisement, if not financially, was that 32 people with Likes on Facebook are 32 people who see each update notice posted to Facebook. (Ideally. As some have noted, Facebook is notoriously bad for playing silly buggers with this.)

Demographically, specific to the story itself, engagement was especially high with Christian women of color ages 40-65, with notable spikes in engagement in Alabama and Ohio. Facebook gives you some incredibly in-depth analysis of your advertisement successes. They know a LOT about you, and they’re not shy about sharing it (in aggregate).

Monetarily, the higher expense of a Facebook Like will only trade off if you’re using Facebook effectively to engage your audience. Your content will definitely matter; Facebook demographics overall are skewed towards women ages 35+. If you believe your content would appeal to that demographic, Facebook might work for you.

Overall, I’m not sure that Facebook’s high cost-per-engagement is a fit for From Winter’s Ashes, or most webserials. I’m wondering if most of my readers are, in fact, engaging the story with mobile devices. (If so, then designing for mobile presentation is critical.) The CPC is, of course, miles and miles too high for the business model of most publishing sites. But it’s a great way to get repeat engagements with customers down the line. I could see Facebook working if you’re already an established author with multiple titles for sale and more in the pipeline.

 

Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 2: Reddit” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 2

 

 

For the next few parts, we’re going to look at major advertising channels I’ve used for my webserial “From Winter’s Ashes” and analyzing them one by one for the ROI and needs of an author and publisher. Today’s focus is the popular web 2.0 social/news aggregator, Reddit!
 
 
Advertising on Reddit:
 

Here’s what my marketing campaign on “From Winter’s Ashes” looks like on Reddit right now. I’m currently advertising in /r/Fantasy, and I’m at 89% of the campaign budget’s run as of today. I decided to see what gambling a modest $10.00 would look like advertising this way, and here’s my results.

Budget: $10.00 (the minimum)
Impressions Purchased: 10,000
CPM: (Cost per thousand impressions): $1.00
Impressions Delivered: (to date) 8890
Clicks: 17
CTR: 0.191%
CPC: $0.52
 
Analysis: The click-through rate of this advertising campaign is mildly disappointing, call it a C grade. More concerning, however, is the CPC. 
 
While $0.52 is, in fact, a very reasonable CPC for most advertising? I have to compare that against the performance of my website:
 
Conversion rate 0.02% (abysmal), average income per conversion $1.00. (That’s one conversion in 1823 unique visitors.)
 
I’d need a CPC of only $0.00055 right now just to break even. One THOUSAND times better performance just to break even.
 
If, however, I could add an ebook onto my website for sale, and turn that conversion rate to 2% and an average income of conversion of $4.85? My CPC break-even bar becomes $0.097. So anything below a $0.10 CPC and I’d be breaking even, really.  
 
What if I really went snazzy with my site, though, and brought it up to the standard like Tor.com or Amazon.com enjoyed, of 10% conversion rate, at the same cost? Then, and only then, would the CPC I’m paying begin to make sense, at a per-conversion income of $4.85 off of a $6.00 sale.
 
Thus, Reddit advertising is far too expensive for my current business, from an ROI standpoint. 
 
However, there are some nice advantages to Reddit advertising:
 
1. The CPC is very reasonable, and I can target my advertising to a particular subreddit, allowing me to target users in a meaningful way based on their interests.
2. The advertisement includes a little bit of graphical space, and is presented top-center on the page, which makes it hard to miss or ignore.
3. Interactivity. People can comment directly on your advertisements and engage you, as an author. Handy for starting conversations that convert the curious into the committed.
 
Disadvantages:
 
1. The AdBlock rate on Reddit is much higher than the general internet, with the average block rate being 55%, with some subreddits seeing 85-90%(!) of ads blocked.
2. Lead-in time. Unlike other websites, Reddit inventories advertisements by the subreddit. I had to wait 23 days until my advertisement began to show. Unless you’re planning well in advance of your event, Reddit might not fit well for your marketing plan.
 

Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 1” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 1

 
In a past career and under current contracts, I’m responsible for the advertising analysis of clients and customers. As a small business owner and operator, making sure that my dollars spent pay back in sales is critical for me. In this series, I’m going to dissect and analyze my paid advertising efforts for my current webserial, From Winter’s Ashes.
 
I advertised the WebSerial through three major channels of online targeted advertising: 
 
Reddit – 170 million users, offers targeted advertising by subreddit. In this case, /r/Fantasy with a user base of 83,750 readers, with a peak daily readership of ~1300.
Facebook – 1.5 billion users, 1.1 billion active users.
Twitter: 316 million active users.
 
My methodology on this analysis involved making minimum advertising commitments to each advertising channel. Each represents the minimum financial commitment through advertising on that channel:
 
Reddit: $10, for a month-long campaign on modestly populated subreddit.
Facebook: $35, at $5/day for a week. 
Twitter: $35, at $5/day for a week.
 

Understanding your key metrics for advertising your writing and determining the cost effectiveness:
 
1. Impressions. How many times was your advertisement served? Chances are good that actual human eyeballs didn’t see them. (Thanks, AdBlocker). Depending on the website, 35%-85% of users block ads. Young markets with tech-savvy users block ads much more.
2. Clicks / “Engagements”. How many times was one of your advertisements actually interacted with?
3. Engagement rate: What percentile of your ads served resulted in an interaction? (For Search advertising, 3% is a good target. For display advertising, 0.3% is a solid average.) So per thousand impressions, expect an average of 30 clicks on Search advertising like Google, and 0.3% on display advertising like Reddit/Facebook/Twitter.
4. Cost Per Click (CPC). The core metric in any advertising campaign: Divide the cost of your campaign by the number of times the ad was interacted with. That’s what you paid per click. 
5. Conversion rate: What percentage of visits to your website, overall, resulted in income?
6. Conversion income: What’s the average income that a conversion supplies you?
7. AIpV / Average Income Per Visitor: On average, how much money do you make per click on your website?
8. ROI-A: Return on investment on your advertising. Realistically, 10-20% is a good target. Most ads, if they’re profitable at all (most aren’t), will return only 10-20% more in additional sales than the advertising cost you. The best campaign I’ve ever run for a client returned a 310% ROI, but that was a finely tuned Google Search ad campaign for a regional, limited-supply professional service. 
 
Be aware that some advertisers (Facebook) will obfuscate their metrics or want you to use their own interaction metrics, which can make it very difficult to determine to industry standards some of these metrics. If you plan to make a serious advertising campaign on one of these advertisers, spend extra time learning what metrics will matter, and look to professional advertiser forums for appropriate targets for your campaign there.
 
 
How to determine if your advertising campaign for your writing will be profitable (MATH TIME):
 
1. Look up your own website’s conversion rate. (If you don’t know, divide your number of transactions on your site in a month by the number of unique visitors in a month. Google Analytics can help you determine this.)
2. Determine your conversion income. (Divide your monthly income from your site by the number of paying customers on your site.)
3. Divide your conversion rate by your conversion income. 
4. Look up the average CPC on the advertising channel. 
5. Compare that against your AIpV. 
 
Chances are distressingly good that your advertising campaign will not be profitable. Sorry. Just because it won’t be profitable doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be useful, however. When building a name or a brand, having a lot of Impressions hitting eyeballs consistently can help build your brand awareness, and get your name to stick in people’s minds.
 

A sample advertising campaign, using plausible numbers:
 
Author writes a book titled “FooDog Generic Fantasy”, and sells it directly from their own website as well as through other distribution channels. It’s a nice book! It’s got great cover art, a solid synopsis with plenty of hooks, and the pricing is well within market norms for a genre book.
 
Author decides they want to advertise their book. The Author has a choice between two fundamentally different kinds of online advertising: Search Advertising, and Display Advertising. Search advertising displays when someone searches for a related search term that the Author specifies. Display advertising shows to (potentially) just anyone visiting a site/network.
 
Because the product is a book with a specific title, Author wisely decides that people aren’t likely to be searching for their book by name if they don’t know about it. The title of their fabulous book is “FooDogs Generic Fantasy”, and Author rightly determines that almost nobody will do a Google Search for the nonsense term “FooDogs” unless they already know about the book anyway, and the words “generic” and “fantasy” aren’t going to be useful search terms. (Google will agree with them, and degrade or decline their advertising.)
 
So Author wisely decides to advertise FooDog Generic Fantasy on display ads, instead. Author is hopefully either decent with art design, or else they’ll be paying someone else for nice artwork for their ads. If Author is going to do it themselves, Author needs to know the technical specifications of the display advertising on their channel, such as resolution of image, size limits, file formats, and form factors. Author will also have to invest the time (10-30 minutes per channel) setting up their user accounts to advertise. 
 
It takes Author 1 hour to make their own art to their satisfaction, and Author spends 30 minutes setting up their first advertising campaign, researching, and implementing the ad, and another 30 minutes tuning it to their target: Readers who would plausibly enjoy and be interested in FooDog Generic Fantasy. Author knows not to waste their money advertising to people who would prefer to read Wartime Specific NonFiction, so they ensure their ads go where they’d be most effective.
 
Author makes a $35 investment in one weeks’ worth of advertising, and is down 2 hours of labour.
 
After week’s worth of waiting and tweaking, Author’s results come in:
 
Impressions: 35,000
Clicks: 105
Engagement Rate: 0.3%
Cost per Click: $0.33
 
Author’s results from this advertising campaign are firmly average for a Display ad campaign. So, the advertiser is delivering pretty average results on the internet. Not great, not terrible. 
 
Next, Author goes to their own website, to track their statistics:
 
Visitors last week: 105
Conversions: 3
Visitors this week: 210
Conversions: 7
 
Conversion Rate: 3%. (Firmly average for retail sales online. Not great. Not terrible.)
 
Author sells FooDog Generic Fantasy eBook for a retail price of $6.00. Of that $6.00, $4.85 is the Author’s profit after taxes and fees. 
 
Since this is all that the Author currently sells on their site, calculating the average income per conversion is easy: $4.85.
 
Author’s advertising campaign ostensibly brought in 4 additional customers, for a net benefit of $19.40. 
 
The ROI-A on this advertising campaign, therefor, is -45%. Ouch! 
 
BUT.
 
While it cost the author money out of pocket to commit to this advertising, it teaches the Author a few valuable lessons about their own website’s offerings: 
 
1. Author’s advertising campaign was average, it was middle of the road, it was unremarkable. It worked. It was not a failure. By every metric the professionals care about, the ad did what it was supposed to do.
2. Author’s website sucks at making them money. 
3. Author paid only $15.60 (net) to double their site traffic for a week, and put their name and brand awareness into the minds of 105 additional customers. That’s about $0.15 per potential customer, and that isn’t counting the number of people who saw Author’s name and advertising and had it stick in their minds.
 
If Author had, say, a second and third book to offer on their website for sale, that average income per conversion might rise from $4.85 to $7.50 as readers found interesting looking titles to buy. In this case, Author would still be losing money, but they would be losing only $5.00 for the same advertising and brand marketing benefit.
 
The better your website is at making conversions of visitors, the more effective your advertisement will be. We’ll see in part 2 my personal experiences with advertising channels, and why controlling your CPC (and, more importantly, improving your conversion rate and income-per-conversion) matters for an author.
 
 

Member Spotlight: Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

My most recently published anthropomorphic project is the short story “Prospero” for Tarl “Voice” Hoch’s horror anthology, Abandoned Places. I’m really fond of taking genre tropes and subverting them. In this case, I started with the common trope of “furries through genetic engineering” and went further than humanity. It’s a cautionary tale about the consequences of humanity trying to use science to distance itself from nature, and how you can’t out-think instinct.

The story is presented as a letter home from a pygmy marmoset, the titular Prospero. He’s genetically engineered to be hyper-intelligent, and was sent out into space to function more or less as a biological component of a larger computer system. Just a piece of the machinery that’s more efficient and economical to launch and operate than silicon for the tasks anticipated. So humanity casts a hyper-intelligent social primate out into the void, alone, and neglects to ask him if he even wanted to go, or for that matter, if he’d want some company along the way. And humanity pays the price for this.

With a theme being “Abandoned Places”, I can’t think of anywhere more lonely and abandoned than the silence of deep space.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

I’m a “seeder”. Stories tend to come to me with a climactic scene popping into my head fully formed. From there, I have to outline, plot, and write forward and backward from that point, to understand both the circumstances that led to the dramatic scenario I envisioned, and its consequences.

I’m trying to get better about starting my stories from the beginning, once I have the climactic scene in mind. In fact the project I just finished for SofaWolf’s Hot Dish anthology is the first I set out to to rigorously write from the beginning.

Before writing, I’ll play music I consider relevant to the pieces I’m working on, as I envision scenes. Once the writing starts, though, I work in silence and solitude as much as possible. My typical writing window is ninety minutes to two hours. Chemically, one to two standard drinks of alcohol, three to five of caffeine, in that time period, keeps the words flowing. On a good day I can turn out five thousand words in those two hours.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

Pornography for the heart. In a past life I’m pretty sure I wrote soap operas and melodramas. I delight in making my beta readers bawl their eyes out in a reading, and then laugh out loud, or otherwise react unconsciously. A room full of beta readers being silent? That’s a story without punch.

My goal is to move my readers emotionally. I write stories about flawed protagonists who earn their scars, and not all of them are worn with pride. Some are just worn because they were wounded. I like my villains to be the protagonists of their own stories; everyone brings their own stakes and reasons to the table.

I also love taking cliches and common tropes and twisting them in on themselves, subverting them, taking the reader on uncomfortable journeys they’re glad to have taken.

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